Residential Fire Prevention

Operation Installation---Proven to Save Lives!

Fires and burns are a common cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S., and the third leading cause of fatal home injury, and they are costly. The Dallas Fire Rescue Department has estimated that residential fires account for more than $20 million in property damage in Dallas each year. The average hospital charge to treat a patient with burn or smoke inhalation-related injuries is over $65,000.

The prevention of house fire-related deaths and injuries has been one of the top priorities of the IPC since its inception in 1994. The IPC assembled a residential fire database spanning from 1991 – 2009 that links data from the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department (DFRD), Medical Examiner’s Office, hospital burn admission and ambulance transports to hospitals and emergency rooms. An analysis of the first seven years of data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2001 (1). By overlaying this data set on the census data for Dallas, the IPC was able to calculate the per capita rate of deaths and non-fatal injuries for each of the 255 census tracts in Dallas; these per capita rates were calculated as the number of deaths and injuries per 100,000 population. Census tracts with lowest income had 20- to 30-fold higher per capita rates of deaths and injuries compared to highest income tracts, and houses with smoke alarms had 8-fold lower rates of deaths and injuries compared to houses without smoke alarms (1).

 

Operation Installation

Based on this local data, the IPC targeted the census tracts with the highest per capita rates of house fire-related deaths and injuries, for smoke alarm installations through a program called Operation Installation; it is a joint program of the IPC and Dallas Fire Rescue Department (DFRD), and involves door-to-door smoke alarm installation, with 4 teams of fire fighters, fire prevention personnel with DFRD, and volunteers from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Each team is accompanied by a fire engine or fire truck, going down each block of the census tract. This program was modeled after a successful program that was started in Oklahoma City in 1990 (2). Operation Installation began in 1999 in the census tracts with the highest rates of house fire-related deaths and injuries, and has continued to the present. Operation Installation has installed more than 30,000 smoke alarms, providing protection to more than 42,000 people since its inception.

 

Proven to Save Lives!

A 10 year follow up evaluation by the IPC showed that there was a 63% lower house fire death and injury rate in program homes that received at least one smoke alarm through Operation Installation, compared to non-program homes in the same neighborhoods that did not receive a smoke alarm. In fact, the rate of deaths from house fires was 74% lower in program homes. The difference was highly statistically significant, and this study’s unique approach and its importance was highlighted in the journal Injury Prevention, where it was published in 2014, and chosen as an “editor’s choice” paper for the journal issue (3). An accompanying paper by the IPC identified factors that were associated with smoke alarm function over time, and pointed out the importance of maintaining the alarms to be sure that they continue to work properly (4).

So, using the same database that allowed the identification of high risk neighborhoods at the inception of the program, the IPC was able to document the effectiveness of Operation Installation, and prove that this joint program of the IPC and DFRD saves lives, saves injuries and hospitalizations, and saves money for the people of Dallas.

  1. Deaths and Injuries from House Fires
  2. Surveillance and Prevention of Residential Fire Injuries
  3. Evaluation of Operation Installation
  4. Smoke Alarm function over time

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